Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: High marks aplenty as Detroit cuts Giants down to size

Detroit News

East Rutherford, N.J. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 31-18 victory over the New York Giants.

Quarterbacks

Perfect? Not quite, but Jared Goff navigated the windy conditions well enough, avoiding the big negative play, and taking a single sack for that matter, while completing 17-of-26 throws for 165 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown, but made some critical third-down throws, including one in the red zone that set up a touchdown on the next snap. Grade: B

Running backs

The conditions called for a run-heavy game plan and Detroit’s backfield delivered with 150 yards and four touchdowns. Jamaal Williams led the way with a trio of touchdowns, giving him a league-leading 12 on the season, while D’Andre Swift got the fourth and final score after Justin Jackson’s 27-yard gain put the Lions on the door step.

The group didn’t offer as much as pass-catchers, with Swift catching most of the passes out of the backfield (including one he fumbled). Fullback Jason Cabinda was targeted twice, but couldn’t haul in a pair of imperfect throws, but made up for it with some blistering blocks. Grade: A-

Wide receivers/tight ends

Amon-Ra St. Brown paced the Lions for a second consecutive week, hauling in seven balls on eight targets for 76 yards. He found a hole in the Giants zone late in the first half for a 32-yard gain that was a key play on a touchdown drive.

Kalif Raymond and Tom Kennedy each hauled in a drive-extending pass to convert third-and-long, while tight end Wright got open for a pair of grabs in the red zone that moved the chains. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Penei Sewell had a couple of tough penalties that negated first downs, including one that wiped out a 17-yard Goff scramble and a block in the back that nearly derailed a drive as it reached the red zone. But, if we’re being fair, both calls were touchy and could have just as easily not been called.

Otherwise, Detroit’s line was solid. They opened holes in the ground game and kept Goff pretty darn clean, with the zero sacks and just three quarterback hits. Grade: B+

Defensive line

From the opening snap, Detroit’s defensive line set a tone. John Cominsky was excellent in a spot start — recording a sack, tackle for loss and pass breakup — and Alim McNeill was a difference-maker with three tackles behind the line and three quarterback hits, including a sack.

Rookie Aidan Hutchinson also continued to deliver key plays, coming up with an interception while dropping into coverage. That fueled the key momentum swings in the game.

About the only bad thing you can say about Detroit’s front is they got a little overaggressive defending zone-reads, allowing Giants quarterback Daniel Jones gain most of his 50 rushing yards around the edges. But that’s a low price to pay for holding the NFL’s leading rusher, Saquon Barkley, to a season-low 22 yards on 15 carries. Grade: A

Linebackers

The Lions don’t shut down Barkley without the linebackers filling their gaps. The big tackle numbers weren’t there, since most of the runs were getting stopped near the line of scrimmage, but it was a largely assignment-sound performance from the second level.

Alex Anzalone led the way with five tackles, while also chipping in a pair of quarterback hits as a blitzer. Grade: B+

Secondary

The coverage had some shaky moments as Jones completed 26 passes for a season-high 341 yards (previous high was 217), but the unit came up with a pair of takeaways as safety Kerby Joseph found himself in the right place to snag an interception on a fourth-down overthrow, and nickel corner Will Harris delivered a textbook hit across the middle to force a fumble that was recovered by Hutchinson.

DeShon Elliott also deserves some praise for his effectiveness tackling in the open field. He led the Lions with eight stops in the victory. Grade: B

Special teams

It was a solid day for the special teams, as well.

The coverage units held the Giants to a 13.7-yard average on three kickoffs, Cominsky got a hand on a PAT, causing a miss, Michael Badgley made all five of his kicks and punter Jack Fox put a charge into a few of his boots, even if his net average took a bit of a hit when his last effort bounced into the end zone for a touchback. Grade: A-

Coaching

The defensive plan was to hold Barkley in check and force a turnover, but the unit exceeded all reasonable expectations by shutting down the star back and generating three takeaways.

Offensively, coordinator Ben Johnson orchestrated a balanced attack to match the weather, sprinkling in some under-appreciated creativity with his calls because those weren’t the big gainers or scoring plays.

Dan Campbell made some questionable choices declining two penalties that would have put the opposition in tougher down-and-distance scenarios, but those decisions didn’t come back to bite him. And when it came to fourth downs, the coach didn’t push his luck, taking the points with a short field goal early in the game and opting for a pinning punt late in the contest, which led into a turnover. Grade: A-

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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